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Baby isn't taking bottle? What to do?

Posted on November 15 2016

Baby refuses bottle

Your baby isn’t taking a bottle and you are blowing up your pediatrician’s phone line because you are worried sick? Breathe. It’s going to be okay. It’s perfectly normal for breastfed babies to be stubborn when it comes to taking their milk from bottles. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There is a world of difference between a breast and a bottle.

Your baby will take a bottle. It may just take a little experimenting, trying different things. Just remember what works for one baby won’t necessarily work for another. Let’s go over a few things to try:

  • Different nipples
  • Positioning
  • Someone Different
  • Change the Environment
  • The “Switch”
  • Spoon feeding


Different Nipples

It doesn’t matter what the packaging says, there is no nipple ‘just like mom’s’ on the market. Some babies will be indifferent to the nipple—as long as there is milk on the other side of it, they are content and happy! Other babies will be extremely stubborn and picky, and it might take five or more different types of nipples before you find one they will take. Be patient!

Try different sizes, shapes, and brands. The worst thing you can do right now is get frustrated and stressed out. When mom is stressed out and unhappy, baby will be too. When mom is happy and relaxed, baby will be too.


Try different bottle feeding positions. Just like with the nipples, some babies prefer one feeding position over another, and then there are other babies that just don’t seem to care either way. A couple positions include:

  • Cradling-Cradle your baby with his head snuggly in the crook of your arm and his body pressed close against yours.
  • Sitting Upright-This position is also great for babies suffering from acid reflux, gas, or other stomach irritation. Put baby in a supported upright position with his head and back against your chest.
  • The Boppy-The Boppy is a popular baby product meant to support the baby during feedings. It’s a firm C-shaped pillow that goes under baby’s head and neck.
  • Lap-Put your baby’s back on your lap, head on or near your knees, so he’s looking up at you.

Someone Different

Have someone other than mom feed the baby. In fact it might be a good idea to have mom leave the house or at least not allow baby to see mom while the friend/or family member is attempting to bottle feed.

You could leave a shirt that smells like mom with the person helping out, that could be used as a last resort. Have them place the shirt on their chest so baby is in contact with it while feeding. This may or may not work as smelling mom might also cause them to expect a breast and become even more stubborn. It’s worth a shot if nothing else is working.

Change the Environment

Feed the baby in an environment where you do not typically breastfeed. Changing up the baby’s scenery and environment might allow them to be more open to trying something new, including a different nipple. If you usually breastfeed in the nursery try moving to the dining room or your bedroom.

The “Switch”

While baby is feeding from the breast, gently put the bottle’s nipple on the edge of their mouth and gradually replace the breast. Do it very slowly until baby has a complete grasp of the bottle. You might need to try this several times to get it to work but the ‘switch’ tends to be a very effective trick at getting baby off the breast and on to the bottle.

Spoon Feeding

Offer baby breast milk in a spoon. You can warm the spoon by running it under warm water in the sink. Start by gently pressing the spoon against the baby’s mouth. Then, allow some of the milk to dribble into the sides of the mouth. Keep doing this until the baby has taken several spoonfuls of milk and is calm (you don’t want to try this with an upset or frustrated baby!). Carefully put the nipple of the bottle at the side of the baby’s mouth. Gently work the nipple into the baby’s mouth. Encourage the baby to open his mouth very wide, like when latching on to the breast. Just like the other methods, it might take several attempts.


Evenings have been shown to be better times for introducing baby to something new. Baby is generally content after a day of satisfying feedings and plenty of TLC.


So, now that you have some ideas of things you can try to get your baby from the breast to the bottle, let’s discuss a few things you should not do. These things could actually make the breast to bottle transition even more difficult than it already is.

Here are 3 things you should not do when trying to get your baby to take a bottle:

  • Do not prop the baby bottle in your baby’s mouth and leave him unattended. You need to always be in control of the bottle and be watchful of the amount of milk your baby is getting. You also need to be able to see if any air bubbles form in the nipple. You don’t want your baby to suck in a mouthful of air.
  • Do not force the nipple into your baby’s mouth. Your patience and frustration may be wearing thin but just stay calm. (Remember…’happy mom is happy baby’??) Your baby will take a bottle it just might take some time.
  • Do not attempt to give a bottle to your baby when the baby is fussy or first thing in the morning when he is ravenous. Things will go smoother if you wait until you and your baby are fairly content and relaxed.


You and your baby are going to be okay. Your baby is not going to become malnourished. You and your baby will learn to enjoy bottle feeding time. Breast and bottle feeding time is a bonding and social time for your baby. It’s meant to be enjoyed and it will be enjoyed.